There’s a fun fair just outside our door until Whit Monday, causing noise and rubbish and strange people you never see during the rest of the year. (Well, strictly speaking it doesn’t cause the strange people, but it does cause them to appear. Our theory is that they save up all year for this outing and never get outside their own neighbourhood otherwise.)
Usually we shrug about it, it’s part of the price we pay for living in the town centre, but last night our two remaining usable bikes were wrecked by person or persons unknown. They were lying in a heap, together with the old rattletrap they’re chained to when not being used, and at first sight the tires had been slashed. Also, the already loose chain had come off the bike that’s technically mine but in use by Secunda.
When I set about repairing the tire damage it seemed to be slightly less bad: only the valves screwed out of both back tires. I found one valve where the bikes had been lying, and there was another in my little toolbox, so that problem was easy to solve.
As I was struggling to get the chain back on a man came from where they’re renovating a house up the street and said “they were on our scaffolding too, the police had to come and get them off!” And helped me with the chain, with his gloved hands. When I put the bike right side up again the chain promptly came off again, so I did it with my bare hands anyway, and managed to put the wheel a few millimeters further back (to maximum) to tighten up the chain a little.
I was pumping up tires anyway, so I did the other bike’s front wheel too because it was soft, and heard “pssss”. Broken valve! Fortunately there was a spare tire in the tool chest and I borrowed the valve from that. (Tertia tells me it’s been like that for a long time, the vandals didn’t break it.)
Then I thought “if the police got people off the scaffolding, it’s probably those same people, I’ll go and report.” But at the police station I found a receptionist who had to go to the back office to ask whenever I asked something, and finally a policewoman who told me that I could report online, or if I wasn’t comfortable with the Internet (what does she take me for? grey hair = digitally clueless?) she could give me a form to fill in. “I know that reporting form,” I said, “I’ve used it to report our stolen bike, and it doesn’t ask any of the relevant questions and lots of irrelevant questions. What does it matter whether I’ve repaired a blue or a red bike?” “Well, yes, we like to have as complete a report as possible.” She did admit that it was more likely than not that our vandals were the same people as their scaffolding-climbers, but if I didn’t have proof it wouldn’t stand in court. “I’ve just been destroying the evidence,” I said, showing my still slightly greasy hands, but that wasn’t what she meant: it would only stand in court if I’d actually seen them do it, and she more or less implied that I’d have a stronger case if I could say who exactly those people were. As if I would stand under the underpass all night waiting for someone to wreck our bicycles and then ask them their name, address and phone number! Prima suggested also asking for their ATM card and code in order to take damages from their account directly. Good call! Seeing what bike repair costs, I must have earned about sixty euros this morning.